My Pre-teens: The Barf Bag Years

Just before the holidays, I found a great photo store that could convert old slides to digital format. While many companies offer this service, my dad’s slides were in 110 format, a popular camera format in the 1970’s that is not as popular today when it comes to conversions.

After picking up the CD containing the digitized slide images, I ran through them (go figure, on “slide show” mode on my computer) and could not help but notice picture after picture of younger me, barely smiling, looking like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. This was quite unusual for a borderline extroverted, always cheerful, only child who was never shy in front of cameras. Then I remembered why… the barf bag years!

I had a pretty bad case of it too. From the age of 8 to the age of 12, we could not travel from one end of the city to the other without car sick bags. For longer road trips… THAT was an experience!

Keep in mind that 40 years ago, some of the very straight, boring highways that we enjoy today had not been built yet. To get to some of the places we visited required trips along long winding country roads with lots of hills. So between the ups and downs of the terrain and a car with no air conditioning, my stomach was not terribly happy and reacted accordingly. On some trips, it reacted many times to the point of having to make multiple stops on the way, sometimes to replenish our supply of bags.

What I don’t get is why, shortly after I left my lunch on one of those hills, Dad felt a compelling need to park me in front of landmarks and yell “Smile!” If I could articulate then what I can articulate now, I probably would have yelled back “Seriously? We’ve travelled 400 miles, through which I was carsick for the last 399. I’ve revisited the contents of my last 7 meals. I’ve used every bag in the car, except Mom’s purse. And you want me to smile like a toothy game show model or an Osmond family member? Seriously?” But it was the 1970’s and we did not speak to our dads that way.

Our first order of business was to get motion sickness tablets, which worked to some extent, but as the pictures clearly show, I was one groggy boy. For a couple of those pictures, I have limited recollection of being there. If Photoshop existed back then, I could have argued with my parents that I was not actually there and that they were making it up. To alleviate the grogginess we cut the dosage, but with limited results when it came to the prevention of the motion sickness.

Sometimes, the “reflex” surpassed the strength of the tablets as I do recall a beautiful Sunday afternoon drive checking out the fall colours on one of those winding roads, my stomach got quite unsettled and I got very sick out the window, leaving most of my lunch on the side of Dad’s car. Why Dad didn’t pull over I don’t quite recall, except the likely scenario that it came on quite suddenly, but I still wonder to this day how the car behind us fared. I sincerely hope that their windshield didn’t catch some of the “fallout”.

Another bad trip I recall was one of my earliest plane trips ever, in 1978. The flight duration was a mere 50 minutes, but felt like an eternity for me. It was probably the flight that experienced the most turbulence I ever had the misfortune of encountering. All I remember was my head in a bag for perhaps 45 of the 50 minutes, my mom apologizing to everyone in the surrounding rows and the flight attendants coming back again and again with wet washcloths. I really fear the karmic payback some day of being stuck on a 6-hour flight next to someone whose stomach is doing cartwheels like mine did that day. The heaving sounds, the ambient aromas, the fear of missing the bag… that is my only fear of flying today, being stuck next to.. THAT KID.

In the years that followed, my parents tried their very best to manage the situation, hoping I would grow out of it. Throughout my teen years, we did not travel far enough to warrant flying and the risks of long drives were mitigated by having me sit in the front seat and keep my eyes on the horizon.

From what I hear, apparently it is a phase that many of my friends went through at that age as well, practically a rite of passage. It is something we can laugh about now.

Eventually I did grow out of it. Today, my stomach is generally strong in that regard and my inner ears don’t usually get disturbed by motion, but frankly, you never really forget that sensation.

Thanks to those slide conversions, now I have a permanent reminder of those years, those “posterity” moments captured in time of a little boy who spend his pre-teens with his head in a barf bag… the sweet memories of childhood!

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Have a great day,


Filed under Humour, Travel

2 responses to “My Pre-teens: The Barf Bag Years

  1. Pingback: The Anti-Bucket List | It's the Journey

  2. Pingback: The Surprises at Summer Camp | It's the Journey

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